Portraying HARRY FLASHMAN

 

Portraying HARRY FLASHMAN

Are there any fans of The Flashman Papers, a series of novels about a 19th century British Army officer, written by the late George MacDonald Fraser? 

The origins of Fraser’s fictional series began with another British author, namely the 19th century lawyer and author, Thomas Hughes. It was Hughes who first introduced the character of Flashman in his 1857 semi-autobiographical novel,”Tom Brown’s School Days”. The novel told the story of Hughes’ years at the famous public school for boys, Rugby. Among the characters featured in the novel turned out to be an older student named “Flashman”, who bullied both Tom Brown and another student named Harry “Scud” East. Flashman’s appearance in the novel ended when Headmaster Dr. Thomas Arnold kicked him for drunken behavior.

Over a century later, a Glasgow journalist named George MacDonald Fraser took the character of Flashman, gave him a full name – Harry Paget Flashman – and wrote a novel about his early years as a British Army office in Great Britain, India and Afghanistan, following his expulsion from Rugby. The novel also featured Flashman’s experiences during the First Afghan War. The results turned out to be ”FLASHMAN”, which was published in 1969. Fraser followed up”FLASHMAN” with three short stories published under the title, ”FLASHMAN AND THE TIGER” and ten more novels. The last novel, ”FLASHMAN ON THE MARCH” was published three years before Fraser’s death.

Fraser had written Flashman’s tales from the latter’s point-of-view. The interesting thing about the character was that despite being a war hero – he had been decorated for his actions in the First Afghan War, the Sepoy Rebellion (aka the Indian Mutiny) and the American Civil War, and possibly other military actions – his character had not changed much from his portrayal in Hughes’ novel. Flashman’s character could be described as cowardly, cynical, unfaithful (although his wife Elspeth was equally so), spiteful, greedy, racist, sexist, and lustful. In short, he was completely amoral. However, Fraser also portrayed Flashman as a hilarious and very witty man with a pragmatic view of the world and society in the nineteenth century.

For a series of novels that have been very popular for the past forty years, only one novel has been adapted for the screen. In 1975, Dennis O’Dell and David V. Picker produced and released an adaption of Fraser’s 1970 novel, ”ROYAL FLASH”. Based loosely upon Anthony Hope’s1894 novel, ”THE PRISONER OF ZENDA””ROYAL FLASH” told of Flashman’s experiences during the Revolutions of 1848 in Bavaria and the fictional Duchy of Strackenz, when he is coerced by German statesman Otto von Bismarck to impersonate a Danish prince set to marry a German princess. Bismarck fears that the marriage would tilt the balance on the Schleswig-Holstein Question and interfere with his plans for a united Germany. The producers hired Richard Lester (”A HARD DAY’S NIGHT””THE THREE MUSKETEERS” and ”THE FOUR MUSKETEERS”) to direct the film. Fraser wrote the screenplay and Malcolm McDowell was cast as Harry Flashman. Being a talented actor, McDowell had Harry Flashman’s personality traits down pat. However, the actor looked nothing like the literary Flashman. McDowell possessed blond hair and stood under six feet tall. The literary Flashman stood at least six-feet-two and possessed dark hair and eyes. In fact, he was swarthy enough to pass for a native of the Indian sub-continent in at least two or three novels or a light-skinned African-American slave in ”FLASH FOR FREEDOM!”. Although the movie did receive some moderate acclaim from film critics, the majority of Flashman fans hated it. In fact, they refuse to acknowledge or watch the film. In their eyes, not only did McDowell bore no physical resemblance to the literary Flashman, director Lester had chosen to infuse the film with bawdy buffoonery and slapstick (as he had done with the MUSKETEERS films) and ignore both the story’s historical context and the novels’ cynically irreverent tone.

When ”ROYAL FLASH” failed to generate any real heat at the box office, the movie industries on both sides of the Atlantic ignored Fraser’s novels for several decades. Also, Fraser’s experience with the 1975 movie had made him reluctant to hand over control of any screenplay adaptation of his novels. The author also complained about a lack of a suitable British actor to portray Flashman – which seemed to come off as a backhanded slap at McDowell’s performance. Fraser has always favored the Australian-born Hollywood icon, Errol Flynn, to portray Flashman. The actor had not only possessed a similar physique with the literary Flashman (both stood at 6’2”), but he also – according to Fraser – had the looks, style and rakish personality for the role. Unfortunately, Flynn had died in 1959, ten years before Fraser’s”FLASHMAN” was published. The author also suggested that Academy Award winning Daniel Day-Lewis might be right for the role, claiming that ”He’s probably getting on a bit,” he “might make a Flashman . . . He’s big, he’s got presence and he’s got style.” In 2007, Celtic Films indicated on their website that they had a series of FLASHMAN TV films in development. Picture Palace have announced they are developing ”FLASHMAN AT THE CHARGE” for TV and that the script has been prepared by George Macdonald Fraser himself. Both companies took an extensive role in developing Bernard Cornwell’s ”SHARPE” (TV series). However, no further news has been forthcoming since this time and the project has been removed from both companies’ websites. 

Hmmm . . . Daniel Day-Lewis. Granted Day-Lewis might have the height and dark looks of the literary Flashy, and he has the talent to carry the role; he seems a bit too lean for me. And he lacks the cowardly protagonist’s wide shoulders that made the latter look so impressive in a cavalryman’s uniform. But aside from Day-Lewis, who among today’s actors would be great for the role? I had once considered Australian actor Hugh Jackman, nearly a decade ago, when he first became famous thanks to ”X-MEN”. He stands at 6’2” tall and possess Flashman’s dark looks. But Jackman is now 41 years old. Perhaps he could still portray Flashman between the ages of 30-50, but that would make him unavailable for movie adaptations of the FLASHMAN stories set in the 1840s – when Flashman was in his 20s. And if I must be frank, Jackman seem incapable of portraying rakes. He can portray violent/aggressive types like Wolverine. But a rake? I once saw him portray a well-born rake in a movie with Ewan McGregor called ”DECEPTION”. For some reason, he did not seem like the right man for the role . . . at least to me. If there is one Australian who could possibly portray Harry Flashman, I would say it was Julian McMahon. Mind you, McMahon never had the same success in the movies that he has on television. But . . . like Jackman, he stands at 6’2” and possesses the same dark good looks. More importantly, he has the style and air to successfully portray a well-born rake. Hell, he could do it, standing on one foot and singing at the top of his lungs. However, McMahon is also 41 and like Jackman, would be unable to portray Flashman in the adaptation of certain novels. His voice is a bit light and for some reason, I have great difficulty imagining him in a period piece. 

Jonathan Rhys-Meyers might be a good choice. Granted, he does not have Day-Lewis, Jackman or McMahon’s height and build. But he has their dark looks. He is also talented and he has the style to portray a rake. More importantly, Rhys-Meyers is at the right age to star in the adaptations of nearly all of the novel, being 32 years old. Another good choice would be Henry Cavill, Rhys-Meyer’s co-star in ”THE TUDORS”. He has the dark looks and talent to portray the 19th century rogue. And he has the height – 6’1” tall. And at age 26, he could portray Flashy in his 20s and 30s, which would make him available in the adaptation of most of the novels.

But there have been no plays to adapt any of the FLASHMAN novels. Not since Celtic Films had indicated an interest in adapting ”FLASHMAN AT THE CHARGE”, two years ago. But if Hollywood or the British film industry ever decide to adapt another story about Harry Flashman, I hope they will do right by the novels’ fans and pick the right actor . . . and director for the films.

“THE DARK KNIGHT” (2008) Review

 

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“THE DARK KNIGHT” (2008) Review

In 2005, director/writer Christopher Nolan had rebooted the Batman franchise with the highly successful movie, ”BATMAN BEGINS” that starred Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader. Both men reunited three years later for a new story centered around Batman’s conflict with his greatest nemesis, Joker in this sequel called ”THE DARK KNIGHT”

There had been a great deal of attention surrounding this movie. Many have not only praised it, claiming that it is better than the 2005 movie. But most of the word-of-mouth centered around Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker, especially after his tragic death two years ago. When ”THE DARK KNIGHT” was finally released, many critics and fans expressed the belief that the positive word-of-mouth had been justified. Not only have many judged Ledger’s performance as the best in his career, others have claimed that the movie is probably the best Comic Book Hero movie ever made. I do not know if the Joker featured Heath Ledger’s best performance ever. As for the claim about ”THE DARK KNIGHT” being the best comic book hero movie . . . I do not agree.

I am not saying that ”THE DARK KNIGHT” was a terrible or mediocre film. Frankly, I believe that it was one of the best movies I have seen this summer. Most of the movie featured an excellent story scripted by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, and David S. Goyer, in which Gotham’s organized criminal element has found itself threatened by the law ever since the end of the Falsone family in ”BATMAN BEGINS”, thanks to Batman (Bale). A former inmate of Arkham Asylum named the Joker (Ledger) approaches the crime bosses, which include Salvatore “Sal” Maroni (Eric Roberts), with an offer to kill Batman for pay. At the same time, Batman and Lieutenant James Gordon (Gary Oldman) contemplate including the new district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) in their plan to eradicate the mob, as he could be the public hero Batman cannot be. Harvey Dent is found to be dating Wayne’s childhood friend and object of romantic desire, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal). This conflict between Batman, the Joker and their allies escalates to a tragic and well-directed dénouement that leads to Rachel’s death. And it is here where I believe that the movie faltered.

”THE DARK KNIGHT” could have ended with Rachel’s death, followed by the Joker’s manipulation of a grieving Harvey Dent into madness and his eventual capture or death. Instead, the Nolan brothers and Goyer allowed the Joker to escape and continued the story with Dent’s vengeful hunt for those he considered responsible for Rachel’s death and the Joker resorting to a Green Goblin situation involving two ferryboats packed with explosives. The situation involved him telling the passengers on each that the only way to save themselves is to trigger the explosives on the other ferry; otherwise, at midnight he will destroy them both remotely. All of this occurred during the movie’s last half hour and quite frankly, it was a half hour I could have done without. I found the entire ferryboats sequence so unbelievable and contrived. It seemed as if Nolan teased us with the possibility of seeing the darker side of the average citizen . . . and wimped out, because he would rather stroke the ego of his moviegoers with some “nobility of man” bullshit by allowing the passengers refuse to blow or try to blow each other to kingdom come, instead of telling the truth about human nature. Very disappointing. It would have been more interesting or darker if Batman had prevented the passengers from blowing up the boats at the last minute. Batman would have saved the people, but the Joker would have proven a point.

A fan had pointed out that the ending of the sequence was Nolan’s message about leaving a sliver of hope for the audience that human beings do have the capacity to do good things. I realize that this was Nolan’s aim, but this is a message that has been done to death by moviegoers for eons. The problem is that screenwriters and moviemakers are always giving moviegoers this “sliver of hope”. They call themselves pointing out the dark side of humanity and then they pervert these messages by allowing them to come out of the mouths from villains like the Joker, before the latter is eventually proven wrong. It just seems like a cop out to me. Which was why I found the whole ferryboat sequence something of a joke. Sure, human beings are capable of doing some good. But in that particular situation? I rather doubt it. If there is one trait that humanity possess, it is a talent for self-preservation. It would have been more realistic to me if the boats had detonated or Batman had prevented this before anyone on one or both of those boats and activated the bombs. Granted, Batman/Bruce Wayne would have been disappointed in Gotham’s citizens, but he would have learned a valuable lesson about the very people he calls himself protecting. Even better, I would have preferred if Nolan had never added that sequence in the first place.

As for Harvey Dent’s hunt for those he deemed responsible for Rachel’s death . . . I would have been more satisfied if Nolan and his co-writers had ended the movie with Dent’s eventual slide into darkness in that hospital room and saved his transformation into a twisted vigilante and arch villain in a third Batman film. This would have prevented the movie from being unnecessarily a half hour long. And it would have saved the talented Aaron Eckhart for the third film as “Two-Faced” Harvey. It would have also spared moviegoers of that ludicrous ending in which Batman and Gordon decided to allow the former assume blame of Dent’s crimes in order to save the reputation of the D.A. I am still stunned by this little plot development. What were the Nolan brothers thinking? Why was it so necessary to save Dent’s reputation in the first place? Did Batman and Gordon harbored such a low opinion of Gotham’s citizens that they had to treat the latter like children?

The performances in ”THE DARK KNIGHT” were basically superb. Christian Bale beautifully captured the growing dilemma of Bruce Wayne’s desire for a normal life with Rachel Dawes, juxtaposed with his role as Gotham’s costumed vigilante and his growing power over the city’s criminal element, thanks to his alliance with police lieutenant James Gordon and the new District Attorney, Harvey Dent. There is one aspect of Bale’s performance I did not like – namely the growling tone he used, while in the Batman persona. I did not care for it in ”BATMAN BEGINS”. I cared for it even less in this film.

I have noticed how many have expressed the view that Maggie Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of Rachel Dawes was better than Katie Holmes in the 2005 film. Personally, I did not see much of a difference in the quality of their performances. Both actresses gave good, solid performances. But . . . the screenwriters’ portrayal of Rachel in this film disappointed me. They had turned her characters into an object. She was Bruce Wayne’s prize for giving up the Batman persona, as soon as he could get Dent to assume the role of Gotham’s “hero”. She was Dent’s love interest, Girl Friday and a reason to go on a rampage for Dent. And for the Joker, she was a means to get at Batman, once he realized how the latter felt about her. There were times when Rachel’s character almost seemed irrelevant and a sad decline from the legal and moral dynamo that Holmes had portrayed in ”BATMAN BEGINS”.

Heath Ledger as the Joker. What can I say? The man was brilliant. He made Jack Nicholson’s Joker look like chump change. Honestly. One of the reasons why I have never care for the Joker character in the past was due to his over-the-top persona. Cesar Romero’s Joker has never impressed me, regardless of the numerous insane clown laughs he had utilized. Nicholson’s Joker was too over-the-top for my tastes. As one can see, I do not have a love for overly theatrical characters, unless they are done right. Granted, Ledger portrayed the Joker as over-the-top. But somehow . . . I really do not know how to describe it. Somehow, he managed to infuse some kind of control in the character’s insanity – not only with his behavior, but also with a talent for emotional manipulation and the views he had spouted to Batman and other characters. Do I believe that the Joker was Ledger’s best performance? No. I believe that the character was one of his two best performances, the other being Ennis DelMar from 2005’s ”BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN”. Do I believe that Ledger deserves an Oscar nomination for his performance, despite his death? Hmmmm . . . yes. He was that good.

The other truly superb performance came from Aaron Eckhart as Gotham’s new District Attorney, Harvey Dent. One of Eckhart’s virtues was that he formed an excellent screen chemistry with Maggie Gyllenhaal. Frankly, I found their romance more believable than her relationship with Bruce Wayne. Eckhart projected a great deal of magnetism, charm and intensity into his portrayal of Dent. But I was more impressed by the way he expressed Dent’s descent into vengeful madness, following Rachel’s death. Granted, this turn of his character occurred in the movie’s last half hour. Although I disliked the movie’s last half hour, Eckhart’s performance in it almost made it bearable.

Gary Oldman, Michael Caine (Alfred Pennyworth), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox) and Cillian Murphy (Dr. Jonathan Crane/the Scarecrow) all reprised their roles from the first film. All four gave solid performances, but only Oldman’s role as James Gordon seemed bigger. I found Gordon’s fake death somewhat contrived and manipulative. Aside from the creation of the Rachel Dawes character, everything about the two Batman movies directed by Nolan have adhered to the Batman canon. Which is why I found it difficult to believe that Gordon was dead. Alfred’s role seemed to have diminished from the first film. Freeman’s Lucius Fox is now quite aware that Bruce is Batman and seemed to be acting as the latter’s armourer, as well as Wayne Enterprises’ CEO. The only problem I had with the Fox character was his opposition against Wayne/Batman’s development an advanced surveillance system that can listen in and track the movement of any of the thousands of cell phones in the city. I found the whole scenario contrived. As much as I had enjoyed Cillian Murphy’s portrayal of Dr. Crane/the Scarecrow in ”BATMAN BEGINS”, I found his less than ten minutes appearance in ”THE DARK KNIGHT” a waste of the actor’s time . . . and mine.

Composers Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard returned to score the sequel. I must admit that I had been impressed by their work in ”BATMAN BEGINS” and had expected another exceptional score by them. Unfortunately, I barely remembered the score. I understand that they had rehashed the original score for this movie and added a new theme or two. But it all came off as unmemorable for me.

”THE DARK KNIGHT” had the potential to be this summer’s best film. But there were some aspects – the portrayal of Rachel Dawes’ character, Zimmer and Newton Howard’s score, the portrayal of some of the minor characters and the contrived writing that dominated the movie’s last half hour – that I believe had ruined the movie’s chances of achieving this potential. Fortunately, the virtues outweighed the flaws and in the end, ”THE DARK KNIGHT” managed to remain first-rate and become – in my view – one of the better films from the summer of 2008.

“BATMAN BEGINS” (2005) Review

”BATMAN BEGINS” (2005) Review

When Christopher Nolan’s reboot of the BATMAN franchise first made its debut during the summer of 2005, many critics and moviegoers hailed it as the second coming. They also viewed it as a vast improvement over the four films released between 1989 and 1997. Since then, ”BATMAN BEGINS” has been overshadowed by its 2008 sequel, ”THE DARK KNIGHT”. After a recent viewing of the 2005 movie, I must admit that I have a deeper attachment for it. 

”BATMAN BEGINS” was basically an origin tale about the scion of a wealthy Gotham City family, who endured a personal tragedy before become a costumed vigilante. The movie began in a Chinese person where Bruce Wayne was serving time for robbery. A mysterious man named Henri Ducard offered to arrange for Bruce’s freedom if the latter would consider joining his organization called the League of Shadows. Once Bruce began his training under Ducard’s tutelage, flashbacks revealed his childhood; his friendship with Rachel Dawes, the daughter of a family servant; his parents’ tragic deaths; and the murder of their killer. Once Bruce’s training ended, Ducard and the League’s head – Ra’s al Ghul – ordered the Gotham City native to execute a murderer they had captured. They also revealed their intent to destroy Gotham City, due to its growing corruption. Unwilling to become an executioner and appalled by the League’s plans for Gotham, Bruce began a fight that led to the Temple’s destruction. After Bruce saved Ducard’s life, he returned to Gotham City to commence his life as the vigilante, the Batman.

Aside from a few minor problems that I will discuss later, I must admit that after four-and-a-half years, I enjoyed”BATMAN BEGINS” more than ever. One, I thought that Christopher Nolan and fellow screenwriter David S. Goyer did an exceptional job in revealing Bruce Wayne’s childhood and the circumstances that led him to China in flashbacks. Very exceptional. Also, through Bruce Wayne/the Batman, Henri Ducard and other characters, the screenwriters managed to convey the pitfalls of vigilantism. Considering the movie’s title, I thought Nolan and Goyer also did an excellent job in presenting a examination of the main character.

Speaking of the main character, Christian Bale earned a well deserved Saturn Award for his portrayal of Bruce Wayne/the Batman. I only wish that Bale could have received a Golden Globe or Academy Award nomination, as well. He did a superb job of capturing all of the nuances of Bruce’s personality. Even more impressive was the way he developed the character from an immature and vengeful twenty-something young man to the somewhat more wiser thirty-something man who had learned to restrain himself from allowing his penchant for vigilantism to spiral out of control. Unless Nolan used a stunt man for Bruce/Batman’s action scenes, I thought that Bale managed to handle the action – especially the fight scenes – very well. Was this his first time in dealing with heavy action sequences? Someone please let me know.

I must admit that I have been a fan of Liam Neeson for a long time, admiring his array of performances that included a randy Irish ghost, a Jedi Master, the ambiguous Oskar Schindler and a determined ex-CIA agent searching for his kidnapped daughter. I cannot honestly say that his best role was Henri Ducard, Bruce Wayne’s mentor. But I would probably view it as one of his better roles. Most people have compared his Ducard to his performance as Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn in ”STAR WARS: The Phantom Menace”. Perhaps. However, I saw major differences in the two roles. Ducard turned out to be a darker character, who despite his words of wisdom, was unable to let go of his past tragedy. Instead, he used it to inflict his desire to punish the guilty and the corrupt through some of the most Draconian means possible. Neeson did a beautiful job in capturing not only Ducard’s wisdom, but also his subtle, yet psychotic personality. In some ways, his Ducard was a lot scarier than the Joker in”THE DARK KNIGHT”. Only, his villainy was not as colorful. And like Bale, he had earned a Saturn Award nomination. Only he lost to Mickey Rourke (”SIN CITY”). Hmmmm.

On the other hand, Katie Holmes was given a Golden Raspberry Award nomination for Worst Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Bruce’s childhood friend and Gotham’s crusading Assistant District Attorney, Rachel Dawes. And for the likes of me, I do NOT understand why. I found nothing wrong with her performance. I thought she did a splendid job portraying Rachel as Bruce and Gotham City’s moral center. I especially enjoyed her scenes with not only Bale, but also her confrontations with Cillian Murphy’s Dr. Jonathan Crane/the Scarecrow. Many have praised Maggie Gyllanhaal’s portrayal of Rachel in ”THE DARK KNIGHT’. Personally? I think that Holmes was lucky not to appear in the 2008 film. At least her Rachel Dawes had not been written as a mere object of desire and a barely irrelevant character.

Speaking of Cillian Murphy, I truly enjoyed his performance as Dr. Jonathan Crane, the cold-blooded and manipulative city psychiatrist who became arch villain, the Scarecrow. He did an excellent job in conveying the character’s subtle villainy and sardonic wit. Another villain that possessed the same wit turned out to be Gotham City’s crime boss, Carmine Falcone. Although Tom Wilkinson portrayed the character with a good deal of wit and verve, it seemed a pity that his performance was nearly ruined by a questionable American accent seemed like a bad parody of a old Warner Brothers gangster character. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman portrayed mentors and allies for Bruce Wayne/the Batman – faithful butler Alfred Pennyworth, Wayne Enterprises executive Lucius Fox and police sergeant Jim Gordon, respectively. And they all did solid jobs; especially Caine, whose wisdom and concern for his employer’s personal life allowed him to be Bruce’s true mentor.

Linus Roache portrayed Thomas Wayne, Bruce’s doomed father. He gave a solid performance, but I found his American accent rather questionable. And I also had other problems with Bruce’s parents. One, they seemed impossibly good – almost pure. And I found that aspect of their portrayal a bore. Two, Thomas and Martha Wayne must have also been incredibly stupid. The Wayne family went to the opera via public transportation. Okay, perhaps I can excuse that on the grounds that perhaps they could not afford a limousine or wanted to save gas. But when Bruce wanted to leave the opera early, they left the theater through the goddamn back door. No wonder that thug, Joe Chill, was able to accost them so easily.

Speaking of problems, I have a few more regarding ”BATMAN BEGINS”. One, I hate the growl that Bale had used, while portraying the Batman. There were times when I found Bale slightly coherent and I also found it unnecessary and annoying. Two, I have a problem with Ra’s al Ghul, the so-called leader of the League of Shadows whom Bruce had killed in Tibet (or China). Apparently, the Gotham City native had killed a psychic manifestation of Ducard’s mind. How Ducard managed to create this manifestation and how Bruce managed to kill it were plot points that Nolan and Goyer failed to explain.

When all is said and done, I must admit that I really enjoyed ”BATMAN BEGINS”. Personally, I feel that Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer had written a better movie than ”THE DARK KNIGHT”, despite its flaws. The movie not only featured excellent direction from Nolan and an interesting score by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, it also had top-notch performances from Christian Bale, Liam Neeson and the rest of the cast . . . even those with questionable American accents. In fact, I would go as far to say that I consider it to be one of my favorite comic book movie ever made.

“THE PACIFIC” (Episode One) Commentary

 

“THE PACIFIC” (Episode One) Commentary

Tonight saw the premiere of the 10-part miniseries, “THE PACIFIC”; which is produced by Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Gary Goetzman. 

The miniseries focuses upon the lives and experiences of three U.S. Marines who fought in the Pacific Theater – writer Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale), war hero John Basilone (Jon Seda) and professor/writer Eugene Sledge (Joseph Mazello).

This first episode featured the three men’s reaction to the attack upon Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Basilone is already a one-year veteran of the Marines around this time, as he says good-bye to his family. Leckie joins the Marines about a month after the Hawaii attack and forms a friendship with a local girl named Vera before saying good-bye to his father. And Sledge is forced to realize that his heart murmur will prevent him from joining the Marines with his friend and neighbor,Sid Phillips (Ashton Holmes). Not long after this opening, both Leckie and Basilone find themselves being shipped out to deal with the Japanese threat on Guadalcanal Most of the episode focuses upon Leckie and Phillips’ early experiences on Guadalcanal. By the end of the episode, Basilone and the 5th Marines arrive.

If there is one thing I can say, “THE PACIFIC” is definitely different from 2001’s “BAND OF BROTHERS”. But I guess I expected it to be. One thing, this episode made it clear that there will be scenes featuring the three characters’ experiences on the home front and amongst other civilians. That scene between Leckie saying good-bye to his father at the bus depot was very interesting – especially with the writer dealing with his father’s reluctance to say good-bye. And it was interesting to watch Sledge deal with his frustration at being unable to join up, due to his heart murmur. I found myself wondering if he had any idea what he would experience during the war’s later years, would he be so frustrated.

The main difference between “THE PACIFIC” and “BAND OF BROTHERS” is that the latter was mainly a retelling of the experience of an Army company, with an office as the series’ main character. I think that “THE PACIFIC” is being presented in a way that is similar to the 2000 movie, “TRAFFIC” or the 2005 movie, “CRASH” . . . in which the same topic is presented from different perspectives. In this case, the miniseries is from the viewpoints of three men who DID NOT serve in combat together. And yet, there are connections between them. Leckie served in the same Marine company as Sledge’s best friend, Phillips. Both Leckie and Basilone fought on Guadalcanal and have a brief encounter with one another at the end of Episode One. And later, we’ll see both Leckie and Sledge fight in another campaign together – Peleliu. I only hope that many people will understand and learn to accept the fact that “THE PACIFIC” has a different style of storytelling than “BAND OF BROTHERS”.

By the way, I want to say a few last things. I must say that the action in this episode was amazing, along with the jungle setting. And the birthday tune that Leckie and the other Marines sang to Phillips was not only funny, but had an ominous aura as well. Well done. Well done.

“THE LADY EVE” (1941) Review

Below is my review of the classic 1941 comedy, “THE LADY EVE”, which was was written and directed by Preston Sturges:

”THE LADY EVE” (1941) Review

I must admit that I have never been a diehard fan of Preston Sturges. I realize that he is the one Hollywood director and screenwriter credited for taking the screwball comedy format to a more mature level. And this is certainly apparent in his films. But of all of his movies, I can only think of two that I consider personal favorites of mine. And one of those two happen to be his 1941 comedy classic, ”THE LADY EVE”.

Starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda, ”THE LADY EVE” told the story about a mismatched romance between a beautiful con artist (Stanwyck) named Jean Harrington and Charles Pike (Fonda), the naïve heir to the Pike Ale fortune and a reptile expert. The pair met aboard an ocean liner bound from South America to the United States. Jean and her father, Colonel Harrington (Charles Coburn) decided to fleece Charles at cards, but she fell in love with him and ruined her father’s plans for a quick score. But Charles broke up the romance after learning that Jean and Colonel Harrington were gamblers and con artists, thanks to his ever vigilant valet/minder, Mugsy (William Demerest). Furious at being scorned, Jean re-entered Charles’ life, while masquerading as the posh “Lady Eve Sidwich” – niece of Sir Alfred McGlennan Keith (Eric Blore), another con man who’s been swindling the rich folk of Connecticut.

What can I say about ”THE LADY EVE”? It is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. Period. And that is quite an achievement for a film that is almost seventy (70) years old. Do not get me wrong. I can think of other comedies made during this period that were just as funny. Unfortunately, a good number of them tend to lose steam by the film’s last fifteen minutes or so. A good example of this would be the two comedies that Cary Grant and Irene Dunne made together – ”THE AWFUL TRUTH” and ”MY FAVORITE WIFE”. But thanks to Sturges and Monckton Hoffe, who wrote the movie’s original story, allowed Jean’s deception and torment of Charles in order to keep the laughs going . It began with that first moment when Jean and Colonel Harrington spotted Charles boarding the ocean liner and ended right up to the film’s last flickering moment when a reconciled Charles and Jean kicked Mugsy out of her stateroom.

Some of my favorite scenes from the movie included the following:

*Jean’s criticisms of many other female passengers, determined to seduce poor Charles in some of the most hilarious and awkward ways ever conceived;.

*Jean’s seduction of Charles inside her stateroom;

*Mr. Pike’s (Eugene Pallette) frustration at the lack of a breakfast prepared for him;

*Mugsy’s attempts to determine whether Lady Eve Sidwich and Jean Harrington are ”the same dame”, during the Pikes’ dinner party for their aristocratic guests;

*Charles’ many pratfalls that threatened to ruin the dinner party;

*Lady Eve’s revelation of her less than virginal past with a score of men to a very stunned Charles during their honeymoon aboard a train

Naturally, I have to speak about the cast. Sturges filled it with some first-rate performers – whether they were character actors with minor roles that did not require any lines (think of the numerous shipboard females that attempted and failed to woo Charles Pike), or the two leads – Stanwyck and Fonda. There were certain performances that caught my eye. William Demarest was a hoot as Mugsy, Charles’ paranoid and very faithful retainer, whose suspicions of Jean as the Lady Eve provided some of the funniest moments in the film’s second half. Eugene Pallette was equally funny as the gruff Horace Pike, who seemed incapable of understanding his shy and scholarly son. And Charles Coburn made a cool Colonel Harrington, a card sharp who is also shrewd enough to gauge his daughter Jean’s feelings for Charles. And Eric Blore portrayed a deliciously over-the-top Sir Alfred McGlennan Keith, a fellow con artist of the Harringtons, who is recruited by Jean to portray her relative during her Lady Eve impersonation.

But this movie obviously belonged Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda as the two lovers – Jean Harrington and Charles Pike. Her Jean is so deliciously manipulative, yet passionate when she first falls for Charles. And Charles Pike has to be one of Fonda’s funniest role in his long career. Watching him struggle and fail to resist Jean’s charms filled me with a lot of laughs, along with his series of pratfalls during the sequence that featured the Pikes’ dinner party. Stanwyck and Fonda first worked together in the 1938 comedy mystery, ”THE MAD MISS MENTON”. In both ”MISS MENTON” and ”THE LADY EVE”, it seemed quite apparent that they truly enjoyed working together.

Monckton Hoffe had received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Story. This is the only Academy Award nomination that the film had received, I find that a criminal oversight on the part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The New York Times had voted ”THE LADY EVE” as one of the ”10 Best Films of 1941”. The movie industry and the media in 1941 had vastly underrated the quality of this film, as far as I am concerned. Personally, I believe that it is one of the best movie comedies ever made. Period.

“OCTOPUSSY” (1983) Review

 

Below is a review of the 1983 James Bond film, “OCTOPUSSY”. Directed by John Glen, this 13th Bond film starred Roger Moore as the British agent:

“OCTOPUSSY” (1983) Review

While perusing some of the Bond forums, I have noticed that 1983’s ”OCTOPUSSY” is not highly regarded by many fans. Personally, I have always found this hard to understand or accept, considering that the movie has been one of my favorite entries in the Bond franchise for years. But after watching it recently . . . I still do not understand its low standing amongst the fans.

”OCTOPUSSY”’s pre-title sequence is merely a little teaser about Bond’s attempt to sabotage a missile system in the Banana Republic (aka Cuba). It was light, humorous and filled with plenty of solid action. I particularly enjoyed the fact that what started out as failure on Bond’s part after he found himself captured by enemy soldiers, ended up as a success partially through the actions of the enemy, when they attempt to shoot down the Acrostar Mini-Jet he used for a quick escape. Although entertaining, the pre-title sequence has nothing to do with the main story, which involves a power-hungry Soviet general, a mysterious and beautiful smuggler/circus owner and a duplicitous Afghan prince.

Written by George MacDonald Fraser, Richard Maibaum, and Michael G. Wilson, ”OCTOPUSSY” starts out in East Germany with 009 dressed as a clown and being pursued by a knife-wielding villain. The villain turns out to be a pair of twins (Mischska and Grischska) who want something that 009 has – namely a fake Faberge egg called Property of a Lady. One of the twins manages to fatally wound 009 with a knife. But before he can die, the British agent manages to reach the local British embassy and deliver the egg in dramatic fashion. James Bond is assigned to investigate his colleague’s death. The investigation leads to an auction at Christie’s where the real Property of a Lady egg is being sold . . . and Bond’s first meeting with the villainous Kamal Khan, his henchmen Gobinda and the lovely Madga. Bond’s investigations lead him to India, where he makes his acquaintance with Kamal Khan for the second time. He survives several attempts on his life and incarceration at Khan’s Monsoon Palace and eventually meet the mysterious Octopussy, who turns out to be the daughter of a former rogue agent whom Bond had met years ago. Bond’s encounters with Octopussy and Khan provides him with clues that lead back to East Germany and Soviet General Orlov and Khan’s plot to detonate a nuclear bomb on a U.S. Air Force base in West Germany. Fortunately, Bond (with Octopussy’s help) foils Orlov and Khan’s plans.

Roger Moore returned for the sixth time as British agent James Bond. At age 55 during the film’s production, he struck many Bond fans as too old to be portraying the super spy. Personally, I had no problems with Moore’s age around this time. He still looked handsome and healthy enough to star in the action-packed spy thriller. And he portrayed Bond with a world-weariness and style that seemed to befit his age. Even better, he managed to retain some of that gritty toughness that he utilized so effectively in his previous outing, ”FOR YOUR EYES ONLY” . . . and retained his sense of humor at the same. Speaking of that humor, I usually have nothing against Moore’s humorous style (unlike many fans and critics). But I can think of four occasions when I found it a bit too much:

-Chase sequence in Udaipur with street performers

-Bond focusing short circuit camera on Indian operative’s cleavage

-The Tarzan yell during Bond’s escape from Khan’s Monsoon Palace

-Bond using fake crocodile submarine to sneak into Octopussy’s estate

Despite the extreme silliness listed above, I still found Moore’s performance satisfactory. I enjoyed his sense of humor during his encounters with the West German citizenry, while trying to stop Orlov and Khan’s bomb. And I admired his dramatic skills in scenes featuring the discovery of Vijay’s body and his romantic scene with Octopussy. But I was especially impressed by his acting in the scene that featured Bond’s only encounter with General Orlov.

Maud Adams returned to appear in her second Bond film, this time portraying the leading female character – smuggler/circus owner, Octopussy. I cannot honestly say I would consider Adams to be among the best actresses that appeared in the Bond franchise. The nine years between ”THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN” (in which she portrayed the villain’s doomed mistress) and ”OCTOPUSSY” seemed to have shown no real improvement in her acting skills. But she seemed competent enough to carry the role. And her looks and screen presence certainly helped. The secondary female lead – Kristina Weyborn – portrayed Madga, Octopussy’s right-hand woman and personal liaison to Kamal Khan. Like Adams, Weyborn is a tall Swedish-born beauty with limited acting skills. And like the leading lady, she possessed enough looks and presence to carry her role. Although I do wish that someone had given her more lessons in performing martial arts on screen.

French actor Louis Jordan portrayed Kamal Khan, an exiled Afghan prince who desire for a piece of the Imperial Russian treasure leads him to take part in General Orlov’s plot to bomb a U.S. Air Force base and change the political landscape of Western Europe. Khan serves as the liaison between Orlov and Octopussy, who traveling circus/smuggling operation allows the two men to smuggle a nuclear bomb into West Germany.  Like Yaphet Kotto and Christopher Lee before him, Jordan seems to be a doppleganger of Moore’s James Bond – smooth, suave and very deadly. One scene in particular – Bond and Khan’s game of dice at an Udaipur hotel – reflects the mirror image of the two men in a very effective manner. Not only did Jordan perfectly portray Kamal Khan’s smooth style and sophistication, he did an excellent job of reflecting the Afghan prince’s darker nature – especially his cold-blooded tendency to betray anyone who stood between him and self-preservation. Including Octopussy and his men.

“OCTOPUSSY”‘s cast of minor villains include Steven Berkoff as the bombastic General Orlov, whose desire for completely Communist Europe and a higher position in the Soviet hierarchy sets off the movie’s plot. Although I found his scenes with Moore, Jordan and Adams effective and subtle, Berkhoff unfortunately revealed a tendency toward hammy acting in a scene that feature a meeting between the Soviet premier and several generals – including Gogol. And when I mean hammy, I mean . . . ham served with eggs. Indian actor Kabir Bedi portrayed Khan’s right-hand man, the silent and intimidating Gobinda. One of the Bond sites – “MI-6” Forum – stated the following about the character: “Kamal Khan’s faithful bodyguard, big and tough but none too bright.”. I do not know if I agree with that assessment. On second thought . . . I don’t agree. Gobinda’s flaw may have been that he was too devoted and loyal to Khan – after all, he actually obeyed the Afghan prince’s order that he climb out of a plane in mid-flight and kill Bond. But less than bright? No, I don’t agree. Gobinda struck me as a very observant and intelligent man. And the very handsome Bedi portrayed the henchman with a nice balance of intelligence and menace. In fact, Gobinda happens to be one of my favorite henchmen. Actors David Meyer and Anthony Meyer portray the knife-throwing assassins who killed 009, Mischka and Grischska. They did not say much in the movie, but both did a nice job of projecting competent and menacing killers.

With the death of Bernard Lee in 1980, the character of M did not appear in “FOR YOUR EYES ONLY”. The character returned in the form of actor Robert Brown, who began the first of his four movie run as the head of MI-6 in “OCTOPUSSY”. Brown portrayed M with authority, but very little imagination.  Personally, I think he was simply too young to be portraying an authority figure against Roger Moore, who was six years younger. Not until Timothy Dalton’s tenure will Brown show that along with Lee and Judi Dench, he could also be an interesting M. Lois Maxwell returned as Moneypenny in one of the most amusing Bond-Moneypenny scenes in the franchise. The scene involved a ‘Miss Penelope Smallbone’ and Moore and Maxwell managed to inject a lot of humor and charm into the scene, as befitting two old friends. Desmond Llewellyn had once stated that “LICENSE TO KILL” was his favorite Bond film. Which does not seem surprising, since he had a strong role in it. But he also had a strong role in “OCTOPUSSY” and I could tell that he had enjoyed himself. Especially in the scene that featured his rescue of Madga and some of Octopussy’s other followers. It seemed too bad that Q’s embellished role in this movie seemed just as unecessary as his embellished role in “LICENSE TO KILL”. General Gogol returned in the form of Walter Gotell. And he portrayed the Soviet KGB general with his usual competence. Tennis star, Vijay Amritraj made his screen debut as Indian intelligence agent . . . Vijay. Okay this is not exactly an example of original casting, but what the hell? He did a pretty good job, anyway. And he was rather charming.

“OCTOPUSSY” marked John Glen’s second time in the director chair. And like “FOR YOUR EYES”, he did an admirable job. I have to give the man kudos for once again, bringing a touch of realistic grit in Moore’s portrayal of Bond and in the franchise. Although I do feel that he made a misstep in allowing those silly moments I had earlier mentioned, in the movie. But I do wonder who had included those ridiculous little scenes? Was it Glen? Moore? Or were the screenwriters, Fraser, Maibum and Wilson responsible? If the writers were responsible, it was a misstep on their parts. Otherwise, they created an admirable script. One of the scenes highly criticized by critics was the sight of Bond disguised as a clown to infiltrate the circus where the bomb was located. I never understood this criticsim. Perhaps they disliked the idea of James Bond dressed as a clown. If so, I find their attitude extremely shallow . . . and rather stupid.

Also, I wonder why George MacDonald Fraser was included in this project? Was it because he was a British Army veteran who had served in India? Or that he had incorporated his experiences in India in his Harry Flashman novels? I do not know what to admire more – the screenwriters’ creation of the villains’ objectives and Bond’s efforts to stop the bomb, or Glen’s direction of those scenes. Perhaps both.

I wish I could say that I enjoyed the movie’s theme song, “All Time High”, which was sung by Rita Coolidge. But in the end, it simply bored me. However, I did enjoy John Barry’s lush and exciting score. And I must commend cinematographer, Alan Hume, for the film’s photography. His shots of India and the English countryside (serving as East and West Germany) made “OCTOPUSSY” one of the most colorful entries in the Bond franchise.

Despite the low opinion held by many Bond fans, “OCTOPUSSY” remains one of my favorite Bond films. In fact, I consider it to be Moore’s second best film (despite a few stupid jokes) and the franchise’s sixth best. I give it . . . 8/10.

“TWO THUMBS UP!” [G] – 1/1

Here is a “CHARMED” fanfic I had written over six years ago. It is an Alternate Universe story set in Season 5:

———

“TWO THUMBS UP!”

RATING: [G]
SUMMARY: Old and new movies become a topic for Cole and the McNeills, and in turn, he rediscovers an old favorite movie series. Set three days after “Neighbors”.
FEEDBACK: deerush76@yahoo.com – Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: Cole Turner, the Charmed Ones, Leo and other characters related to Charmed belong to Spelling, Kern, Burge and WB. Dammit!

NOTE: I suggest that you read “Neighbors”, to get an idea of how Cole became acquainted with Olivia McNeill and her family.

————-

One stream of bright light flickered inside the wide room, located on the ground floor of the McNeill manor. The light came from a large television set, situated on one side of the room. It seemed almost as large as a movie screen. On the other side, the McNeill family and two guests occupied seats and the sofa, as they watched the movie being shown on the television screen. An old movie called SUNSET BOULEVARD.

Cole Turner held his breath, as he watched the final tragic moments of the movie played out before his eyes. Once it ended in its famous fade-out, he let out a gust of breath. Someone turned off the television and the CD player attached to it. Another switched on the lights.

A deep sigh escaped the mouth of the 78 year-old Elise McNeill. “Great movie, wasn’t it?” she said to no one in particular.

“Are you kidding?” Cole replied. “I’ve been a fan of “SUNSET BOULEVARD”, since I first saw it over fifty years ago.” All eyes focused upon him. “What?” he demanded. “That’s when I first saw the movie.”

A cross between a smile and a smirk touched Olivia McNeill’s lips. “I suppose that you also saw Gloria Swanson and Bill Holden at the premiere.”

Cole rolled his eyes. “Of course not,” he retorted. Then he paused dramatically. “But I did appear in a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie. One of their early ones called “THE GAY DIVORCEE”.”

The McNeills, much to Cole’s amusement, stared at him in shock. Olivia’s dad, Jack, was the first to recover. He added sarcastically, “Now that I have got to see. Who did you play? One of the background dancers?”

“No. Just a guest at the seaside resort, in the second half of the movie. You know, during that ‘The Continental’ dance number.”

Jack chuckled slightly. “Next thing you’ll be telling us is that you were an extra in “BEN-HUR’ – both the 1925 and the 1959 versions.”

Cole smirked. “Sorry. I have never developed a taste for Biblical movies. Not quite my forte.”

The McNeill matriarch looked upon her guest with envy. “Well, I’ll be damned. An extra in an Astaire-Rogers movie. You lucky man.” She sighed. “They certainly knew how to make movies, back then.”

Groans from the other McNeills filled the room. Doubt creased Cole’s forehead. “You think so? Hollywood movies haven’t really changed much, as far as I’m concerned. Just the usual batch of good movies, along with the usual crap. Both then and now.”

“Are you serious?” the elderly woman demanded. She stared at Cole, as if he had just committed sacrilege.

Cole opened his mouth to speak. Fortunately, the youngest McNeill sibling came to his defense. “Oh, c’mon Gran!” Harry cried. “You’re not going to start that ‘they don’t make movies like they used to’ stuff again, are you? I can think of plenty of old movies that you don’t like!”

“Oh? Name one.”

Harry replied, “I’ll name more than one. “GUNGA DIN”, “CIMARRON”, “STELLA DALLAS”, “BACK TO BATAAN”, “STRANGE CARGO” . . .” A long list of movies continued to roll off his tongue. He added, “And I can think of many recent movies that you love. “SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE”, “BULLETS OVER BROADWAY”, “L.A. CONFIDENTIAL”, all of the Indiana Jones movies, ““X-MEN” . . .”

“Wait.” Cole faced Mrs. McNeill. “You actually liked “X-MEN”? I didn’t think it would be your type of movie.”

Mrs. McNeill shot her younger grandson a dark look. “Actually, it’s not bad. It could have been longer. I thought the theme of bigotry was interesting. And I found it interesting that the characters had powers similar to ours, while being called mutants.”

Bruce McNeill, who was Olivia’s older brother and a younger version of Jack McNeill, added, “Oh yeah. Olivia has red hair and telekinesis – like that Jean Grey character. Mystique is a shapeshifter, like Dad and me. Storm has electokinesis, like Mom. And like Gran and Harry, Professor Xavier is a telepath, who can control the minds of others. Come to think of it, you have that power, right?” he said to Cole.

The other man nodded. “But I can’t read minds. Only send telepathic messages.”

“And don’t forget that you have a self-healing power as well,” Olivia added. “Like Wolverine.”

Bruce rolled his eyes in mild disgust. “Oh Lord! I wondered if you were going to bring up old Wolvie. I forgot that you’re a big fan of his.”

An indignant Olivia shot back, “I happen to be a fan of the actor who played him! Hugh Jackman.”

“Who?” Cole asked. “Are you talking about the guy with the sideburns and claws, who dresses like trailer trash?”

Chortling, Harry replied, “That’s him!”

Cole grunted. “Huh. If you ask me, I think they chose the wrong actor to play this Wolfman. In the comic books, he was at least 5’3″ tall.”

“His name is Wol-ver-ine!” an irritated Olivia retorted. “Not Wolfman!”

This time, Cole snorted. “Wolfman, Wol-ver-ine, what’s the difference?”

“Has anyone ever told you that you might be perverse? The difference is that Wol-ver . . . I mean, Wolverine is not a character from a Universal horror movie!”

Cole rolled his eyes. “Whatever. Like I said, the guy in the comic books is at least 5’3″. This Wol-ver-ine who’s in the movie,” he ignored Olivia’s dark glance, “is at least six feet tall.”

Olivia added with more enthusiasm than Cole cared for, “Six-feet-two-inches tall. Hugh Jackman is 6’2″ and is from Australia.”

“Really?” Cole replied with a small smirk. “I didn’t realize you had a thing for 6’2″ Australians. Since I’m the same height, would it help if I adapt an Australian accent?”

Staring pointedly at the half-daemon, Olivia shot back, “Unless you happened to be a shapeshifter and can morph into Hugh Jackman, you would be wasting your time.”

Cole responded with another smirk.

“Maybe if Hugh Jackman had been in “THE ENGLISH PATIENT”,” Harry added, “Olivia might have actually liked it.”

Mrs. McNeill shook her head in disbelief. “I really don’t understand you sometimes, Livy. You can’t stand “THE ENGLISH PATIENT”, but you’re crazy about “LOVE STORY”?”

Olivia retorted, ““LOVE STORY” doesn’t put me to sleep. And “THE ENGLISH PATIENT” does. I mean, c’mon Gran! It’s so damn long!”

“Long movies don’t bother me,” Gweneth McNeill commented, in her soft Welsh voice. “If it’s done properly, that is. Like “LORD OF THE RINGS”. The first one – “FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING”.” Sighs of deep satisfaction from the McNeills, filled the room. Joined by Cole’s own contented sigh. The middle-aged version of Olivia stared at him. “Oh. I didn’t realize you saw that movie.”

Cole replied, “At least five times. I’ve also read the Tolkien novels, and once met the author at Oxford, back in the late 40s.”

Bruce asked, “What about the others? Your in-laws? Did they liked it?”

Cole hesitated as he remembered. “Well, both Paige and Leo loved it. Especially Paige. She saw it seven times. Phoebe . . . like it a lot. At first. But after two times, she got tired of it. And as for Piper . . . well, I don’t think she really cared for it. In fact, I don’t think she liked fantasy movies that much.”

“Rather odd for a woman who reads fairy tales to her unborn child,” Olivia commented dryly. “At least according to Leo.”

“Perhaps impending motherhood has made her changed her mind,” Cole said with a shrug.

Bruce added, “Makes me wonder how Piper felt about the latest “STAR WARS” movie.”

Surprise caused Cole’s heart to leap. “New “STAR WARS” movie? I had heard about it, but I never got to see it.” He added wryly, “Considering I was trapped in the Wasteland at the time.”

“You’re a “STAR WARS” fan?” Bruce stared at Cole.

Bruce’s father nodded. “That’s right! Now, I remember. When Gwen and I were trying to keep that amulet from Cole back in ’77, we had a friend trail him all over London.” Jack turned to Cole. “She told me that you saw the original “STAR WARS” four times.”

“Wow!” The word came out of Harry’s mouth like a gunshot.

Incredulity was stamped on Cole’s face, as he stared at Jack McNeill. “You had me followed? How?”

“Oh, due to an associate of yours named Orobas. Of course, he was in human form at the time we had captured him.” Jack continued. “Oddly enough, he didn’t really put up a fight when we . . . uh, persuaded him to tell us about you. In fact, he didn’t even bother to lie.”

Cole rolled his eyes in disgust. “Damn Orobas. He always prided himself on being honest. That damn honesty of his nearly got me killed.” Then he asked, “But how was your friend able to . . .?”

A knowing smile stretched Jack’s lips. “Teleportation. Our friend possessed it. She blinked. Made it easy for her to track you. And no, she wasn’t a warlock. There are a good number of witches who can blink. Like Olivia’s friend, Nathalie Green.”

“Unbelievable,” Cole murmured with disbelief. “By the way, speaking of that new “STAR WARS” movie . . .”

Olivia spoke up, “It’s called “ATTACK OF THE CLONES”. Unfortunately, the movie has been pulled out of the regular theaters since last August.”

Disappointment reflected in Cole’s voice. “Oh.”

Olivia continued, “However, it has been re-released in the IMAX theaters. Just recently.”

“Really?” Cole failed to repress the hope in his tone. “Is uh, is anyone in the mood for Jedi Knights and the Force, tomorrow night?”

* * * *

The last strains of John Williams’ score filled the dark theater. Cole stared at screen, still in a trance over the movie he had just watched. After the last credits disappeared, the lights brightened the theater. Cole heaved a long sigh.

“What did you think?” Olivia asked. She, along with Bruce, Harry and Bruce’s fiancée, Barbara Bowen, had accompanied Cole to the movies, tonight. The entire party of five stood to their feet and edged their way toward the aisle. “Did you like it?”

Another gust of breath left Cole’s mouth. “Are you kidding? I loved it! How many time have all of you seen it?”

“Bruce and I saw it three times, before tonight,” answered the blond and gregarious Barbara. She linked arms with her fiancé.

Harry added, “This is the sixth time I’ve seen it. And for Olivia,” he nodded at his sister, “this would be her ninth time.”

“Tonight would be my seventh time, moron.” Olivia gave Harry a quick jab in the arm. “Learn to keep count.” Then she turned to Cole. “As for you . . . Dad wasn’t kidding. You really are a “STAR WARS” fan!”

Cole explained that the second movie in the series, “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK”, happened to be his favorite. “But this new one might turn out to be my second favorite. A very close second. I think for the very first time, I’m really beginning to see both trilogies as one continuing saga. And that actor who played Anakin Skywalker . . .” He shook his head. “Whew! That was some scene when he confessed to that massacre.”

“Wasn’t it marvelous?” Olivia cooed. “Hell, I didn’t know whether to be frightened out of my wits or feel sorry for him. Maybe a little of both.”

Barbara added, “I’ve heard that a lot of fans couldn’t understand why Padme Amidala would marry Anakin after that confession.”

“Maybe they can’t understand that she loves him, no matter what,” Olivia replied, drawing stares from the others. Especially Cole. The five people stepped out of the theater and into the night. “Padme seems like the type who’s willing to accept others for themselves. And she’s very compassionate and forgiving. There aren’t many people like that in real life.” Cole frowned, as he found himself musing over Olivia’s words.

A wry smile touched Bruce’s lips. “I forgot that Anakin Skywalker happens to be Livy’s favorite character.”

Olivia gave her older brother a knowing look. “Qui-Gon Jinn from “THE PHANTOM MENACE” is my favorite character.” She paused. “Anakin happens to be my second favorite.”

“Well, he happens to be my favorite,” Cole interjected. He smiled mischievously. “Even when he was Darth Vader.”

Cole, the McNeills and Barbara reached the theater’s parking lot. They exchanged goodnights, before Bruce, Harry and Barbara entered the former’s dark-blue Jaguar. Seconds later, Cole and Olivia climbed into his black Porsche convertible. As the Porsche sped along one of the streets, Olivia asked Cole how long since he had been back from the Wasteland.

“On a permanent basis? Since last September,” Cole replied. “Why?”

The cool wind ruffled Olivia’s red hair. “I don’t know. I wondered how many summer movies you may have missed, this year. I mean, we had “SPIDER-MAN” . . .”

“I saw it,” Cole said, interrupting her. Olivia stared at him. “Right before I had been vanquished. Wasn’t bad. The drama was better than the action.”

A quirky smile stretched Olivia’s lips. “It was also the number one movie, this year . . . believe it or not. And it’s on video and DVD. So is that new Jack Ryan movie, “THE SUM OF ALL FEARS”. Now that’s pretty good, although most critics had put it down.”

“What else did I miss?” Cole asked.

“Well . . .” Olivia rambled off a list of movies, including “SIGNS”, and “MEN IN BLACK II”. So far, there have been two new spy movies – a new version of “THE BOURNE IDENTITY” – which is pretty good – and “XXX”. And a new James Bond movie is supposed to be released in about a week. “DIE ANOTHER DAY”, I think. And there was “ROAD TO PERDITION”.” She heaved a heartfelt sigh.

As the Porsche reached an intersection, Cole eased it to a stop. He glanced at his companion. “I take it that you enjoyed that very much.”

“Hell, it was great!” an enthusiastic Olivia crowed. “It’s a gangster movie with Tom Hanks and Paul Newman. Set in the early 1930s.”

Cole wondered if he had heard right. “Tom Hanks and Paul Newman in a gangster movie?”

“Yep. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Hanks played a hitman for the mob. He turns against his boss, Newman, after his wife and younger son is murdered by Newman’s son. Real nut case, by the way. I loved it! Very complex.”

Cole murmured, “I’ve got to see this. Unless . . . it’s out of the theaters by now. Right?”

“Well, I know it’s still playing at this theater in Sausalito. We can go see it tomorrow, if you like.”

For a moment, Cole hesitated. “ROAD TO PERDITION” sounded interesting, but he still had another movie in mind. “Sounds great,” he said. “But can it wait until we see “ATTACK OF THE CLONES” again?” He stared at Olivia. Who stared right back. Then she smiled. “What?”

“You should see the look on your face right now. You look like a young and very eager Anakin Skywalker,” Olivia replied, the smile still fixed on her face.

Cole grunted and the light turned green. He stepped on the gas and the Porsche shot forward. “Funny that you should say that. Because you also remind me of someone from the movie.”

“Like who?”

“Padme.”

From the corner of his eye, Cole saw Olivia frown. “Padme? Anakin’s Padme? I don’t see how. I’m not exactly the reserved type. In fact, I can barely keep my mouth shut.”

Cole smiled. “Maybe. But like Padme, you’ve got a very big heart. What did you call her? Compassionate?”

The Porsche approached another intersection and stopped. Cole turned to face Olivia. Thanks to the street lamp above, he noticed that her face nearly matched the color of her hair. “Are you . . . blushing?” he asked.

Her eyes fixed on the street light, Olivia quickly shot back, “I’m not blushing! I’m . . .” She glared at Cole, who allowed himself another smile. A huff escaped her mouth. “Never mind!”

“If you say so.”

Seconds later, the light turned green. Cole allowed himself a private smile, as the Porsche quickly roared into the night.

THE END